DHS working to create cyber dialogue with Chinese counterpart

DHS working to create cyber dialogue with Chinese counterpart

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will work to create a cybersecurity dialogue with its Chinese counterpart, the agency announced late Sunday.

If the discussions actually happen, it would be the first official cyber talks between the two countries in nearly a year. China quit a joint working group in May after the Obama administration indicted five members of the Chinese military for hacking the U.S.

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According to a DHS fact sheet, the two sides “intend to establish cyber discussions” between the DHS and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. 

The goal is “to achieve concrete cooperation and set a path to reestablishing a full government to government cyber dialogue.”

The announcement came at the end of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson's multi-day visit to China.

For months, experts have thought it unlikely that the U.S. and China could restart a formal cyber dialogue.

In the last year, cyber relations have only become further strained between the two countries.

Security researchers have accused China of orchestrating invasive snooping operations on major U.S. tech firms operating in the country, including Apple and Microsoft.

Meanwhile, many believe President Xi Jinping is using cybersecurity tactics to crack down on Internet access, blocking websites and eliminating workarounds long used to get to restricted portions of the Web.

Beijing officials deny much of this. They also point the finger at the U.S. government, saying it must solve its own surveillance issues uncovered by government leaker Edward Snowden.

But an ongoing disagreement over China’s proposed cybersecurity rules — which would require all companies operating in China to use Beijing-approved encryption — has actually brought the two countries informally back to the table.

Under pressure from industry groups, top U.S. officials have traveled to China and worked with their counterparts to get the rules delayed.

Now it appears there might be a path to more official discussions.

The DHS said the two sides were spurred by “the recognized need for increased dialogue.”

Chinese Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun will visit the U.S. later this year to continue his meetings with Johnson, China's state news agency, Xinhua, reported.

— Updated 11:20 a.m.